An Artful Moment: Kawase Hasui

For the sake of an aesthetically fruitful collaboration between eye and mind:

"Moonrise at Futago Island, Matsushima"

Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) was one of the founding members of the “new prints” movement in Japan during the early decades of the 20th century. Along with his colleagues, Kawase sought to invigorate the art of ukiyo-e, or woodblock print making, by restoring the traditional shin hanga system, in which the artist, carver, printer, and publisher engaged in a creative division of labor.

"Miyama Shrine Snow Horizon"

Kawase, like other members of the movement, was influenced in several ways by European impressionism, particularly in his use of color and light, and he employed these innovations in painting a wide range of traditional subjects, including landscapes, famous places, women, actors, birds, and flowers. Kawase was particularly skillful in capturing the mood of the people and the places he depicted.

"Rainy Season at Ryoshimachi, Shinagawa, Tokyo"

"Omori Beach at Night"

There is a dream-like quality to many of Kawase’s prints, perhaps in part because he had a romanticized view of the Japan he was depicting. That is, his art is partly both a protest against the increasing urbanization and industrialization of Japan and a yearning for the older, more rural character of his homeland.

"Kansau Shrine in Snow at Lake Tazawa"

Students of ukiyo-e will also note that Kawase employs several techniques not found in traditional print-making, including colored lines, three-dimensionality, and deep space.

"Autumn at Funatsu, Near Lake Kawaguchi"

In 1956, Kawase Hasui was named a Living Treasure of Japan.

"Night at Sengakuji"

Just as it is not enough simply to “read” a good poem, it is not sufficient merely to “look at” the paintings of Kawase Hasui. In both cases it is necessary to pause, to contemplate, and to allow the art to work its magic: A poem properly regarded should in meaningful ways transform a reader’s perception of self and world, and a woodblock print correctly pondered should cause a viewer to see into the heart of things and thereby become more sensitive to the emotional nuances that attend each of our moments in this fleeting life.

"Full Moon and Cherry Blossoms at Matsuyama Castle"

"Snow at Ishinomaki"

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